Aldous Harding has released her third album, Designer, on 4AD records to high praise and a bit of bewilderment for those new to her noir folk stylings. In Designer, Harding takes a different approach than her sophomoric effort, yet its elusive lyrics escape any sort of close reading leaving listeners both captivated and perhaps confused all at once. The appeal for many appeared a month ago when the video for the track “The Barrel” released wherein one takes a journey of a sort through a David Lynchian dreamscape accompanied with undeniably the best over-sized headgear since Pharrell went through his steal the Arby’s sign and wear it like it’s totally normal phase. As entrancing as the lead single “The Barrel” is, some of the best gems of this record lie in the deeper cuts.
Among critics favorites is the closing track, “Pilot” which opens with the line “I don’t know how to behave,” which indeed feels like final statement on what Harding has done throughout the record. Blending noir folk vibes with an air of reflection, perhaps, the kind that one arrives at on their third record, Harding pensively evaluates the soaring kind of philosophical questions, noting “But I am a coward/Camus was right.”
Set at only the third track in, “Zoo Eyes” while finding a clumsy way of rhyming with “Dubai” offers perhaps the most quintessentially Spring sounding song. Think, “Summer Breeze” without the oppression of some woman waiting all day for a man to arrive at home. Indeed “Zoo Eyes” is a bit of an enigma, much like Harding’s work itself. And through the arc of the song the final lines of, “What am I doing in Dubai?” seems more emblematic of a metaphorical far away space than of a physical one.
Designer while an entirely new exploration on its own, seems to overlap perhaps a bit with the thematic consciousness of her debut self-titled work as well as her sophomoric effort Party. One can only imagine what her fourth album will offer to her solidly gothic folk stylings, but for now, Designer satiates in all the right ways and at all the perfect moments.